Ever since our arrival to San Diego, I had noticed an unusually tall mast at the far end of town, near the port district. I thought it was just my bias towards all-things-sail, coupled to an optical illusion of some sort.
One day, almost by mistake, I ended up at the 36th floor of a building just south of downtown. And looking through the window, there was the top of the mast, almost level to where I was.
I still thought I was being overly enthusiastic, when eventually Adriana mentioned: “that looks like a really tall mast”. That was official, there was something special about that mast !
Yesterday we had a glorious day here, sunny, dry, with temperatures well into the high 70’s, and little breeze. Perfect for a dinghy ride.
Just after leaving the shelter of the marina, Adriana said “why don’t we go check out what that tall mast is all about?”. I obliged happily, opened the throttle, and for the following 15 minutes or so we zapped across the bay and along San Diego’s waterfront towards that tall white stick.
It ended up being a tour for sightseeing floating things of the Large kind:
As we got near the place where the sail boat was docked its mast kept getting taller and taller, to a degree we had not seen before. As soon as we crossed a bend, and got to see the whole thing, I immediately understood the reason behind our impressions.
Said boat was nothing less than the former “Mirabella V”, now renamed “M5”. When launched, more than a decade ago, she was the largest sailing boat ever built. And I believe she probably still is the largest single-masted sail boat afloat.
Everything about M5 is huge: she is 247ft (75mt) long, 48ft (15mt) wide, draws 32ft (10mt) with her keel fully deployed, and her mast towers 292ft (88mt) above waterline – no wonder why it stands out in town.
Upon our return to Shelter Island, when it looked like our sightseeing was over, looking among the myriad of yachts lined up at the docks, there is was. Floating unpretentiously, with its characteristic green topsides and typical stern, lay Sayula II.
Sayula II was among the first specimens of the spectacular breed of Swan 65s – some of the finest production boats to be ever built at the time. But what makes this lady in particular notorious is that she raced – and won – the first Whitbread Round The World Race, in 1973. Held every four years thence after, the Whitbread (later renamed Volvo Ocean race) quickly evolved into a highly competitive and professionalized event – and the breeding ground of great contributions to Sailing overall.
The Withbread/Volvo Ocean Race have and continue to provide a wealth of great stories and great sailing heroes. But there’s one thing Sayula II and her crew hold which no one will ever match – she was the first to win it !